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Writing Your First NSF-Style Proposal Tessa Hill, UC Davis Sarah Penniston-Dorland, U Maryland [email protected] [email protected]

Writing Your First NSF-Style Proposal · Elements of Successful Proposals: Formatting and Writing Style 1. Use images – a picture is worth a thousand words. 2. Well organized, with

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  • Writing Your First NSF-Style Proposal

    Tessa Hill, UC Davis Sarah Penniston-Dorland, U Maryland [email protected] [email protected]

  • Outline of topics

      Your Program Officer  Elements of successful proposals  Common pitfalls  Resubmissions  Myths debunked  Strategies for proposal writing

  • Your Program Officer…

    1.  Is a scholar in your field (usually) who knows what everybody is doing & is formative in directing the scholarship of your field

    2.  Coordinates & runs the review process

    3.  Executes or makes funding decisions, depending upon agency policies

    4.  Advocates for your field in competition with other research

    areas and budget priorities. 5.  Continues to work with you throughout your grant and is

    interested in your success!

  • Ask your Program Officer…

    (After doing your homework) 1.  Does your program fund this type of research? 2.  What is the average program budget and success rate;

    how many proposals in a competition? 3.  What is the typical size of a successful “new

    investigator” project in this program? 4.  What is the review and decision-making process in this

    program? 5.  Are there special programs for which I qualify and how

    can I be considered for them? 6.  Are you aware of other agencies or organizations that

    fund this kind of project?

  • Exercise: Short Professional Introductions

    •  Name •  Title •  Institution •  1-2 sentences describing generally what

    you do.

  • Exercise: Longer Professional Introductions

    •  Name •  Title •  Institution •  Briefly describe a research project you

    are considering writing a proposal to fund

  • A good source for information about Grant Writing: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/research/funding.html

  • Proposal strategic planning – Research significance

    Pick a research topic you are considering writing a proposal to fund.   Why is this topic important?

    ¡  What is unique/transformative about the research?

    ¡  What are the benefits of this research?

      How does this research fit with your overall career plan?

  • Components of an NSF proposal

      Project summary

      Project description

      Biographical Sketch

      Intellectual Merit & Broader Impacts

      Data Management Plan

  • Broader Impacts

      ~1-2 pages of 15-page proposal  Should be related to research  Can include education of graduate students,

    incorporation of research materials into courses taught, development of new courses…

      ...but think creatively!  Be prepared and specific – think through details,

    make contact with experts and document their involvement in the project

      Include an evaluation plan

  • Elements of Successful Proposals:
Big Picture and Hypotheses

    1.  The relevance and importance of the proposed work should be clearly stated. Connect it to the ‘big picture.’

    2.  Proposals should be hypothesis or question driven… objectives/hypotheses/questions appear on the first 1-2 pages

    •  Hypotheses should relatable to big picture questions•  Outline tests of hypotheses and expected outcomes•  Outline possible alternatives

  • Elements of Successful Proposals:
Formatting and Writing Style

    1.  Use images – a picture is worth a thousand words.

    2.  Well organized, with underlining, differences in type, spacing, TITLES, to call attention to main points and structure

    3.  Written in appropriate size font. Smaller is not better!

    4.  Use active writing style rather than passive. This is not a research paper.

    5.  Describe new and exciting aspects of proposed research. Do not cast it as an extension of previous research.

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    Formatting Tip: 
The flowchart

  • Formatting Tip: The timeline

  • Formatting Tip: The Conceptual Diagram

  • Elements of Successful Proposals:
Leave No Unanswered Questions!

    1.  Explain concepts clearly using concise language.•  Don’t use overly specialized terminology.

    2.  Provide preliminary data•  Demonstrates ability to conduct proposed research•  Makes expected outcomes clear

    3.  Demonstrate access to resources required for research4.  Address potential outcomes, possible pitfalls and alternative

    approaches5.  Demonstrate expertise

    •  Use appropriate references (old and new)•  Refer to your published work on similar topics•  Consider potential reviewers when deciding upon references

  • Common pitfalls

    1.  Too ambitious - for proposed budget, for personnel, for time

    2.  Results too specific and not generalizable

    3.  Importance of proposed work not fully explained

  • The Review Process

      Who are/might be the reviewers?¡  You can suggest potential reviewers in your proposal.

      What are the review criteria?  Become familiar with the review process

    ¡  Offer to review grant proposals¡  Offer to serve on proposal review panel

  • Resubmissions

    1.  Specifically and directly addresses each review critique.2.  Substantially revise, rewrite, or remove sections that were

    critiqued in earlier reviews.3.  Update preliminary/pilot data and interpretations.4.  Incorporate new references that may have appeared since

    the previous submission (or were missed in the prior proposal).

    5.  Include a refined/revised list of potential reviewers based on reviews (some reading between the lines required).

    6.  Should appear noticeably stronger that the prior version.

  • NSF proposals – Some Facts

      EOS article, 18 Dec 2012 (data are from Ocean Sciences Program, which is part of Geosciences Directorate)

    Junior investigators have just as good of a chance of getting funded as their senior colleagues For Broader Impacts, it is better to do one thing well than to propose a multi-faceted program for many different groups 60-75% of proposals funded are first submissions (20-22% second submissions, 5-10% third submissions). Success rates of resubmissions were “generally close” to first submissions.

  • Complete your worksheet

      What resources do you need to be successful?

      What is the timeline for this research, from proposal writing

    to what you do if it is funded?

  • Proposal-writing strategies

      Ask colleagues in the same field as you about expectations for proposals in your field

      Ask trusted colleagues to read through proposals

      Consider ideas on how you will deal with the revision (rejection) process

  • Take advantage of special opportunities

      Packard Fellowship http://www.packard.org/what-we-fund/conservation-and-science/packard-fellowships-for-science-and-engineering/

      NSF CAREER/PECASE http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503214

      DOE Early Career Awards http://science.energy.gov/early-career/

      HHMI Professorships (for undergrad research) http://www.hhmi.org/programs/society-of-hhmi-professors

      Opportunities at your institution for early career faculty

  • NSF review criteria

    • Intellectual Merit: The intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; • Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes. The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria: 1.  What is the potential for the proposed activity to:a. advance knowledge and understanding within

    its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); andb. benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?

    2.  To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?

    3.  Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well- organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?

    4.  How well qualified is the individual, team, or institution to conduct the proposed activities? 5.  Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home institution or through

    collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.

  • Get funding calls for proposals to come to you

      Your Sponsored Projects Office¡  Meet your SPO contact, make him/her familiar with your work

      Individual Agency email lists¡  E.g. NSF (http://nsf.gov/funding/)

      Community of Scholars – Pivot¡  http://pivot.cos.com (Free 30-day trial)

      Discipline-specific listservs  Acknowledgements sections at conference

    presentations  Meeting with your program officers

  •   Full STEM participation of women, persons with disabilities and underrepresented minorities;

      Improved STEM education and educator development at any educational level;

      Development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce;  Enhanced [STEM] infrastructure for research and education;  Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with [STEM]

    science/technology;  Increased partnerships between academia, industry and others;  Improved national security;  Increased economic competitiveness; and  Improved well being of individuals in society


    Broader Impacts – 
Desired Attributes/Outcomes